Scientists criticize Europe's $1.6B brain project (Update)

July 7, 2014 by Frank Jordans
Credit: Rice University

Dozens of neuroscientists are protesting Europe's $1.6 billion attempt to recreate the functioning of the human brain on supercomputers, fearing it will waste vast amounts of money and harm neuroscience in general.

The 10-year Human Brain Project is largely funded by the European Union. In an open letter issued Monday, more than 190 neuroscience researchers called on the EU to put less money into the effort to "build" a brain, and to invest instead in existing projects.

If the EU doesn't adopt their recommendations, the scientists said, they will boycott the Human Brain Project and urge colleagues to do the same.

EU spokesman Ryan Heath called for patience, and said it was too early to say whether the project is a success because it had only been under way for nine months. He said the EU plans to rigorously review the scientific progress made and the project's management every year.

Henry Markram, who heads the Human Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne, suggested those who signed the letter of protest did so because they didn't understand the venture.

In an interview, he said the project, established in 2013, would bundle the work of some 100,000 neuroscientists worldwide the way that CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has done for particle physics. He acknowledged the brain project may have done a poor job telling scientists how they may benefit, even if they aren't directly involved.

"I think we need to communicate more that it's going to actually help them get more funding," Markram said. "They feel that money is being taken away, that it's going to distract from the important work that they're doing. There is really not a threat."

The Human Brain Project involves 112 institutions across Europe and the pooling, sharing and organization of their data on brain research. That information will be used to reconstruct the workings of a human brain on computers. "Only through simulations can you do some things that aren't possible in the lab," said Markram.

Explore further: Swiss university launches Human Brain Project

Related Stories

Swiss university launches Human Brain Project

October 7, 2013
A Swiss university has launched what it calls the world's most ambitious neuroscience project with a budget of 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion).

Researchers design steady-handed robot for brain surgery

November 28, 2011
Neurosurgeons may one day get help in operating rooms from a robot with movements 10 times steadier than the human hand to perform delicate brain surgeries, the EU said Monday.

Two science projects win up to $1.3 billion each (Update 2)

January 28, 2013
Two European science projects—one to map the intricacies of the human brain, the other to explore the extraordinary carbon-based material graphene—won an EU technology contest Monday, getting up to €1 billion ($1.34 ...

K computer is unleashed for largest neuronal network simulation ever

January 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Wow, today's top supercomputers have formidable speed and computational power to rival humans. On the other hand, wow, the human brain is more powerful than today's supercomputers, which with all their ...

EU official: ACTA unlikely to become law

May 4, 2012
(AP) -- An EU official says an international treaty that has been the subject of large protests by people fearing it would impinge on Internet freedom is unlikely to gain approval.

EU states angry over cuts of nuclear, satellite projects

November 16, 2011
Britain and a clutch of European Union states are protesting the removal from the EU budget of a next-generation nuclear reactor and an Earth observation satellite they consider vital for Europe.

Recommended for you

Protein droplets keep neurons at the ready and immune system in balance

August 15, 2018
Inside cells, where DNA is packed tightly in the nucleus and rigid proteins keep intricate transport systems on track, some molecules have a simpler way of establishing order. They can self-organize, find one another in crowded ...

Self-control develops gradually in adolescent brain

August 15, 2018
Different parts of the brain mature at different times, which may help to explain impulsive behaviors in adolescence, suggest researchers from Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh.

Research reveals that what we see is not always what we get

August 15, 2018
Researchers are helping to explain why some people anticipate and react to fast-moving objects much quicker than others.

New approach to treating chronic itch

August 15, 2018
Researchers at the University of Zurich have discovered a new approach to suppressing itch by targeting two receptors in the spinal cord with the right experimental drug. In a series of experiments in mice and dogs, they ...

Immune cells in the brain have surprising influence on sexual behavior

August 14, 2018
Researchers have found a surprising new explanation of how young brains are shaped for sexual behavior later in life.

Scientists pinpoint brain networks responsible for naming objects

August 14, 2018
Scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) have identified the brain networks that allow you to think of an object name and then verbalize that thought. The study appeared in the July ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.